(adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({});

RVing Here and There

Thoughts, news and information about the world as seen through RV windows
RSS icon Email icon Home icon
  • A-Printing We Will Go (3D Printing, That Is)

    Posted on October 18th, 2017 admin No comments

    Having spent most of the past week getting my Kodama Trinus 3D Printer up and running again, and having spent a little more time getting it properly adjusted and tuned up,   it was time to print.   Last spring, while playing with the 101Hero,  I had begun scouring the Thingiverse for interesting projects.  Most of what I found interesting was way beyond the ability of the 101Hero.  Also beyond my ability...then.

    But now, with the Trinus armed and ready, I decided it was time to tackle a few of them.

    Ready, Aim, Fire:  Micro Catapult

    To warm up, I made this micro catapult.  It works, and fires a little paper ball two or three metres.

    20171014_185403

    Getting the Cover On

    For one reason or another, I haven't put the enclosure on the Trinus.  Sure, it looks cool, and it's supposed to make the printer quieter, and it protects innocent eyes from the laser engraver when it's installed.  But it's also a bloody nuisance and I never quite got around to printing a filament spool holder for it that I liked.   But the enclosure has been on the floor in my office for months, in the way, holding up junk and dust.  Enough.

    So I got some cheap fidget spinners, extracted the bearings, and got to work.  BTW, did you know that only the center bearing is really good?  The others are a bit stiff.   Anyway, I printed these things that sit on top of the enclosure and hold the filament spool.20171013_184721[1]They seem a bit tippy, but in a few days I'll get them onto the enclosure and we'll see how they work.   Using them involves cutting a hole in the top panel of the enclosure and inserting this filament guide (this isn't mine; mine is in the garage being painted)da92284951d2f7f0e4927156010dc199_preview_featured

    Venus Fly Trap Box

    Okay, these were a trial run for the next project, a really cool thing called the Venus Box from Tom West, aka Prot0typ1cal.  To save you checking the link, here's what his looks like:

    It took over an hour to print each part, at relatively low resolution.  I did it with two modifications, putting teeth on it and using a fluted cover.  Here's my version:

    My Build

     

    As you turn the bezel, the "mouths" open and close.  It's a bit stiff yet, would have been better printed at a finer resolution, but with a little sanding and post-processing it will be great.  Here's what I'm aiming for, as done by jedynak:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Off to a good start, I think.

  • 3D Printing Again

    Posted on October 17th, 2017 admin No comments

    Dusted off my Kodama Trinus 3D printer, which had been sitting idle over the summer while I tried cycle touring.

    20171010_135505[2]

     

    Fixing the Trinus Leveling Bed

    It sure took a while to get everything going again.  I had just got the new leveling bed last spring, but hadn't even used it.  While setting it up, trying to get it level, I found that the motion of the printer shook the adjusting screws loose, to the point where one even fell off.  Not much good, that.  A little blue LocTite fixed them, but it was a surprise that Kodama would ship such an unreliable product.   They've promised to send a replacement set at no charge.  In the meantime, I wonder if I can damp that vibration somehow.

     A leveling screw on the Trinus bed

    A leveling screw on the Trinus bed

    It also took a while for me to get the bed leveled and set for a good first layer.  Stringy, blotchy prints, missing parts.... Part of this was remembering how to use the software, Cura 15.04.6, and set it for best results.

    Bad first layer

    Bad first layer

    Fixing the Heated Bed

    After I got most of that straight, I noticed that the heated bed wasn't heating.   Eventually tracked that down to a broken wire in the cable, which I fixed.  Discussion with a Kodama support rep led to changing the routing of the cable so the coil was not horizontal (as shown in the original assembly instructions) but vertical, in hope of avoiding future issues.

    Lights, Action, LCD

    While I was at it, I added some new LED lighting on the bottom of the X arm, and tied it in with the lighting under the extruder, adding connectors for easy future removal/upgrade. This lights the print bed nicely and I wish I had done it last winter.  Previously, I had drawn 12V from the main PCB and cut it down with a 5V regulator for the lights.  I decided the printer and heated bed needed all the power they could get, and gave both sets of lights their own 5V power supply via another wall wart.  Oh, wonderful, more cords....

    I had got tired of having the leveling  bed screws knock the LCD holder off its mount on the end of the Y slider, so I cut some notches in it to mount it on the printer bed.  That way, the leveling bed screws pass right over it.  Simple and effective, both easier and faster than printing an extension or redesigning and reprinting the original LCD mount (someone already did the redesign!).

    LCD Case Mod Composite

    Are We Ready to 3D Print Yet?

    All this had taken several days.   Let's see,

    • Fix the bed leveling screws with blue LocTite
    • Level the bed and adjust the Z-axis offset
    • Repair the heated bed cable
    • Reroute the HBC
    • Relearn how to use the software
    • Adjust all the software settings (why should they change?)
    • Remount the LCD holder
    • Add new lighting, change the wiring for the lighting, add connectors and 5V power supply

    Can I print now?  Yes.  Oh, but wait, I never did properly set the printer so I could use the entire bed.  I have adjusted the Z axis but now I need to fix the X- and Y-axes.   Darn, not enough room to get in to do the Y axis.   Trinus says to remove the slide for access, but I don't want to do that, it would be remove and adjust, reinstall and check, repeat.  Ugh.  So I printed a couple of these:

    Axis adjustment nut adaptors

    Axis adjustment helpers by drofnas

    They slip over the adjustment screw and onto the tiny 5.5 mm lock nuts, to provide more leverage to loosen them.  The first set was a bit too big, but the second scaled to 95% fit quite well.   With these, I was able to adjust the two horizontal axes so the bed is properly centred.

    Now, what to print next?...

  • Kodama Trinus 3D Printer LCD Holder Mod

    Posted on October 14th, 2017 admin No comments

    After I installed the bed leveling platform for my Kodama Trinus 3D printer, I discovered that when the Y-axis ran to 125 mm, it knocked the LCD screen off of its anchor on axis bed.  The adjustment screws stick down and hit the LCD mount.   Every time.

    3D Printed solutions to the Problem

    Probably the best long-range solution would be to redesign the holder with longer arms so it would stick out further.  The next step would be to print it at a cost of several meters of filament (no big deal) and another several hours of design and print time (big deal!).

    Another published solution is to print an extension such as this one by John Sanford aka drofnas.   No design time, but more filament and print time.

    Think Simple - No 3D Printing Required

    In the end, I chose a far quicker and simpler solution.    I noticed that the "arms" of the mount sat squarely on the metal bed of the Trinus with the bottom of the mount sitting on the desk; it was low enough that the knurled adjustment knobs of the levelling bed passed over top.

    I simply used a hobby saw and a flat file to cut notches into the arms:20171014_151158

    I might have taken them a bit further back, but it didn't seem necessary.  Those few millimeters were enough to snap onto the Trinus base and hold the LCD firmly.

    20171014_151136

    A simple and IMO rather elegant solution that took only minutes to do.

     

     

  • Arkel Handlebar Bag

    Posted on October 11th, 2017 admin No comments

    Woot!   I just got a terrific deal on a large Arkel (pronounced Ar-kel’) handlebar bag.   $159.99 for only $29.99 plus tax.

     

    The note said "Not in Inv".

    The note said “Not in Inv”.

    I had ordered online from United Cycle in Edmonton an Axiom Randonée 10 handlebar bag that was on sale ($109.99 marked down to $29.99).  It was out of stock and they had this one Arkel bag that they offered me at the same price.

    Arkel handlebar bags are made in Quebec.  They are waterproof, made of tough cordura (each bag comes with a sample with a cut in it, and a challenge to tear it.  You can't.) with an aluminum and heavy plastic frame.

    Old Arkel large bag, circa 2014

    Old Arkel large bag, circa 2014.  The sewn-on label and reflective bar along the bottom serve to date the bag.

    They're a bit heavy, but rock solid, and don't distort under load.  They have a sturdy aluminum clip-on mounting system that stands up to a full bag and doesn't slip under road vibration.

    The bag mounts are adjustable aluminum, firmly bolted to the internal frame.

    The bag mounts are adjustable aluminum, firmly bolted to the internal frame.  A quick-release spring locks into place.

    This particular bag is old stock and I think they had it lying around and wanted to clear it out.  So I said, sure, I'll take it, provided it includes the mounting hardware.

    20171011_152426

    In fact, it actually included TWO sets of mounting hardware.  That second set of mounts is worth another $27 plus $8 shipping plus tax.

    It's missing a removable map case (that might still turn up somewhere at United Cycle) but that's no big deal.  A large zip-lock bag will do the same job.

    SO.... for my $29.99 plus tax (plus the gas and time to drive in and pick it up), I got a $160 bag plus $35 worth of mounts.  Almost $200 worth of bike gear for just over 30 bucks.

    I should always be so lucky!

  • Naturehike Mongar Two-Person Tent

    Posted on October 7th, 2017 admin No comments

    Continuing my exploration of lightweight tents suitable for bike touring, I picked up the Naturehike Mongar2 for $163 CAD from AliExpress [as of 2017/10/07 it had gone up to $190 CAD].

    Naturehike Mongar 2 Specifications

    The  Naturehike Mongar2,  Model NH17T006-T, comes in three colors:  Purple, Green (a kind of yellow-lime), and Gray.  Mine is green.
    • Tent fly material:  20D ripstop nylon
    • Tent fly waterproof index:  PU coating 4000mm
    • Inner tent materiatl:  20D nylon
    • Mesh material:  B3 breathable mesh
    • Tent bottom material:    20D  nylon
    • Tent bottom waterproof index:  4000mm
    • Tent poles material:  7001 Aviation aluminum alloy
    • Package size:  500*?150mm
    • Tent size:  210 cm long x 125 cm wide x 100cm high (about 83" x 49" x 39")
    • Vestibule size:  two equilateral triangles each of base 210 cm, width 65 cm (0.27 sq m)
    • Mass: about 1850 g (including guy lines, gear loft, and guy lines, but not the footprint)
    • Accessories: Aluminium tent pegs (10pcs), guy lines (4 sets), gear loft, footprint & bag

    Roomy for one, probably cozy for two, this ultralight tent is an interesting compromise.  The poles are surprisingly sturdy.  The tent itself is minimal:  a bathtub floor with 10 cm (4") sides, topped entirely with fine mesh.  The fly sheet, while waterproof, is almost translucent.

    Top: pegs & bag; gear loft; footprint in bag Bottom:  fly with guylines attached; tent; poles & bag; storage bag Missing:  containment strap

    Top: pegs & bag; gear loft; footprint in bag
    Bottom: fly with guylines attached; tent; poles & bag; storage bag.  Missing: containment strap  Photo courtesy naturehike.com

     

     What I Like About the Mongar2

    I liked this tent for many reasons

    • its appearance - it looked like it would suit my needs
    • the brand - I've had a few Naturehike products and have found them to be of reasonable quality for the price
    • light weight, only 300 grams more than my 1-man cycling tent (despite packing to roughly the same volume!)
    • two roomy vestibules for gear storage
    • a roomy gear pocket at each end, plus an included gear loft
    • a roof peak pole that extends the fly over the doorways

      The Mongar 2 without fly, showing pole structure and roof peak poles

      The Mongar 2 without fly, showing pole structure and roof peak poles

    I consider this roof overhang particularly desirable during the rainy weather that I so often seem to camp in, because it helps shelter the doorway and keep the tent itself drier.  I say drier because chez moi, rain and wind usually go together so some moisture always blows into the tent when the vestibule is unzipped in the rain.

    Mongar2 set up with one vestibule door tied back

    Mongar2 set up with one vestibule door tied back

    According to my scale, this weighed in at under 1750 grams all-in, plus another 240 grams for the footprint.  Naturehike says the tent, pegs, and guylines are 1900 grams and the footprint only 120 grams.  Not sure how that works, but our total mass measurements (2100 for NH and 1985 for mine) are reasonably close.  My 1985 grams is  70 ounces (4 lbs 6 oz).  For comparison, the MSR Elixer2, a sturdier and arguably better quality tent at almost twice the price, weighs in at 4 lbs 10 oz (2100 grams)

    Less than 1800 grams all-in

    Less than 1800 grams all-in

    20171007_105253

    What I Don't Like About the Naturehike Mongar2

    The pole attachment is peg-in-hole, using tiny aluminum tabs, similar to many MSR tents.  While they do cut down on mass, I found these clips a bit awkward with cold wet hands, and impossible with gloves.  As a result, it took me an average of 9 minutes to get this tent erected, compared to about half that for my smaller tent; roughly the same to take it down.  That's based on only three setups, so I may get faster with practice.

    The ridge cross-pole, showing strap and tab attachment used to anchor all poles

    The ridge cross-pole, showing strap and tab attachment used to anchor all poles

    When I first settled into the tent, my thought was that there was better ventilation than in my 1-person tent with storm flaps.  Later, when the wind started blowing under the fly and through the tent, I snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag and wondered if I should wake up enough to close the vents.  No snow seemed to be coming in, so I didn't bother.   But I came to have a greater appreciation for storm flaps and for tents with higher sidewalls.  The Mongar2 might not be a great tent for inclement weather, when you most need a tent.

    Although it takes 12 pegs to completely fasten down the Mongar2, for some reason it comes with only 10.  They're tiny 10 cm (4") aluminum tri-fin pegs, but I guess they're adequate for the job.

    I was surprised to note that the hooks for attaching the tent to the poles are considerably heavier than those in the other NH tents I've had.  Presumably, they are properly sized for the weight they bear.

    Heavy-duty hooks attach the Mongar2 tent to the poles

    Heavy-duty hooks attach the Mongar2 tent to the poles. Note the heavily reinforced corner.

    The vestibule flaps are double thickness or even triple.  Not sure why.  The result is that they're thick and heavy and the bottom velcro doesn't seem to hold.  When you're outside, you can stick it down, but when you're inside it's hard to reach around under the flap and pull it sealed.  Not sure that's a big deal.

    Nylon fly sheets always stretch when wet, but this one seemed to be particularly saggy.  Sure, there are tension straps at each corner, but who gets up in the middle of a rainy night to snug them up? I plan to get some heavy elastic bands so that the vestibule and end ties are stretched out.

    Life in the Mongar2: Snow Load

    I did a test run in the back yard.  It was cold, forecast low of  +2C  with wind, rain and possibly snow, but I had planned for that and was warmly bagged.   The expected storm came in around 10:30 pm,  with rain and high wind.   Even though I'd staked out all four guylines and snugged up the corners, the fly flapped and banged....until the snow came.  The wet, heavy snow settled down the flapping fly.

    20171002_082730

    The Mongar2 is not a four-season tent, and as the snow built up -- five centimeters (about 2") in all -- I was concerned about the snow load.  The tent's relatively flat roof does not shed snow well, so I woke up every hour or so and pounded the snow off the tent from inside.  Not a good night's sleep.  I've had tents with fibreglass poles completely flatten out under similar snow conditions (leaving the Scouts inside sleeping on, blissfully unaware) but I was not sure how the aluminum poles would fare.

    Mongar2 from Naturehike:  Keep it or Sell it?

    The tent seems to be well-constructed and the price was excellent.  It's certainly roomy for one. Packed up, it's the same size as the Ultralight Cycling Tent, and weighs only slightly more, so I'll probably keep it for a couple of trips at least.  Late September is pretty much the end of the season, but we might have another warm spell before winter sets in.  I hope to test the tent in more pleasant weather with a couple of modifications.

    Surely I can get in at least one more overnight tour!

  • Leduc – Beaumont – Joseph Lake – Miquelon Lake Bike Loop

    Posted on September 21st, 2017 admin 1 comment

    Recently,   I did a little 118 km weekend loop to a couple of local lakes.  This was not as far as my earlier four-day loop.  This run had the following purposes

    1. Ride the new bike (first taken on the Thunder Lake supported tour) with all the mods
    2. Use the new 12L World Tour panniers from MEC as front panniers (with the ones I got with the bike on the back)
    3. Practice planning and writing out a route
    4. Provide a test run for a possible group ride next summer

    Bike Mods

    Nothing significant, really.  I took the Rocky Mountain hybrid  that a previous owner had converted for touring.  First, I transferred the pedals and toe clips from my urban bike -- really made a difference.  I hadn't realized that the pedals on the RM were a bit stiff (I'll fix them), but I had noticed my feet jumping off the pedals on bumps.   Second, I raised the seat by 1 cm.  Not a lot, but it made a difference.  Third, I tilted  the adjustable stem up as far as it would go; this also reduced the reach.  I think I'll want to raise the headset with a couple of spacers.  Fourth, I tilted the bars back a bit.   Where drop bars let you move up and down as you shift grip, these bars have me moving forward and back.  Not sure I like that, but on this trip the reduced reach was more comfortable than on the Thunder Lake trip.  Finally, I moved my wired bike computer over to this bike so I could track distances, speed, cadence etc.

    New Panniers

    I had got a set of panniers with the bike; they're an older MEC model, about 20L, waterproof and in good condition.  The previous owner had apparently used these as front panniers on a trip in Argentina.

    The MEC 20L panniers on the back.

    The MEC 20L panniers on the back.

    I shifted them to the back, where they fit just fine; the chainstays are long enough and the bags narrow enough that I don't kick them.  They're roomier than the bags I took on a four-day, three-night trip, and would probably be all I'd need.

    World Tour 12L 5038400-IND39

    MEC 12L World Tour pannier

    But the bike did come with front racks, so...  Mountain Equipment Coop had their World Tour 12L panniers on sale for $10 off, so I bought a couple as front panniers.  They are about the same color as the other ones, so look like a matched set.   The World Tour bags aren't waterproof, but they come with a rain cover that tucks into a handy inside pocket.

    They're not quite as easy to access as the others.  There's only one zip-up front pocket, suitable for something flat such as a guidebook or maybe a small flat first aid kit.  Otherwise, it's just one deep pocket with a couple of little ones inside.   That's okay -- with the others, all the pockets and dividers just mean I can't remember where I put anything!   It will take a few tours to decide what goes best where.

    Four panniers provides far more room than I needed for an overnight, so I set out with them mostly empty.

    Planning the Bike Tour

    I used Google Maps in the beta bike mode to plot the route, measure distances between points, check elevation, and select rest stops.  I knew the area, and had traveled to the various stops by car, though I hadn't followed the particular route that I worked out.   I laid the route out in legs, choosing distances based on my admittedly limited experience that I thought would work, and stopping at places that I knew would be good (availability of water, toilets, and picnic tables for example).

    Solid line - proposed route.  Dotted line - actual route

    Solid line - proposed route. Dotted line - actual route

    I sent my work to a few other riders in the Millet Cycling Meetup for comment.

     

    On the Road East to Miquelon Lake

    My friend and fellow rider Susan liked the plan and wanted to come.  She had a long drive to reach the starting point, and we set out about an hour late.   We didn't follow my planned route, electing to stay on pavement (I hadn't been able to tell from Google Maps even in satellite view whether a particular road was paved or gravel). The legs worked out okay, though we were a bit late to lunch at Joseph Lake. I had built in enough flexibility that we reached Miquelon Lake in good time at around 4:00 pm, in plenty of time to set up and have supper before a threatened rainstorm.

    We both agreed that that part of the ride had been a good one.  With an earlier start, we would have had time to explore Beaumont and Joseph Lake a bit as planned, and maybe take a side loop into New Sarepta in passing, but neither of us felt deprived by missing them.

     Camping and Riding the Miquelon Lake Trails

    Campsite in the rain, Sunday morning

    Campsite after the rain, Sunday morning

    After we set up, we rode around the camp a bit,  and I had a shower.  We had a huge RV site, as Alberta provincial parks are not bicycle friendly.   We did look into the group site, and talked with the park attendant about how many cyclists and tents we would be allowed to have in one site; we'll have to talk to the parks people for more than two.  She said she'd had many cyclotourists come in this summer and all had been disappointed to have to pay for and occupy a huge RV site.

    It rained that evening, sending us under my little tarp to eat supper.  The rain in the night gave us a good sleep.  The next morning, Susan showered while I made breakfast.  Using freeze-dried food was a bit of a novelty for both of us; last night's supper was good but I don't think I put enough water into the hash browns!   I was also using a newly-acquired windscreen for my Trangia spirit stove.  Worked well, cut down boiling time and conserved fuel.

    Trangia spirit stove boiling water for hashbrowns.

    Trangia spirit stove boiling water for hashbrowns.

    After breakfast, the rain cleared up. We packed what gear we could and spread out the rest to dry, then headed off to enjoy the 20 km of backwoods trails in Miquelon Lake Provincial Park.  Some were a bit muddy after the rain but we had no trouble.  Susan hadn't ridden since our trip to Banff (I didn't write that one up) so walked up a few of the steeper hills.  Only got lost once when I followed a trail that wasn't on the map (but then, I'd lost the map, and Susan said I'd turned the wrong way at the first turn, so that's no surprise).

    Susan, holding a treasure she found in the woods along the trail.

    Susan, holding a treasure she found in the woods along the trail.

    Heading Back to Leduc

    We found our way back to camp, had a quick cold lunch, and finished packing our mostly-dry gear.    Despite the rain and taking a bit more time on the trails than planned, the quick lunch meant we were only about an half hour later than I'd estimated.

    All this time, a stiff and gusty wind had been blowing.  Hadn't bothered us in the woods.  But as soon as we left the park, we were in it.  Dead into it.   Turns out that four panniers creates quite a bit of drag!   A lot of sail area for a cross-wind, too, threatening to blow me into traffic or off the road.

    Also, the nice downhills we followed yesterday were now uphills going back.   They weren't much as hills go, gentle slopes that normally we'd have cruised up, gear and all.  But the combination of hills and headwinds was pretty wearing.  Susan, tough farm-woman that she is, just gritted her teeth and kept on pedalling,  while I found myself tiring and needing frequent breaks.   I was sure glad to see the end of the 28 km first leg and pull into Rollyview.  Thanks to the wind, we arrived two hours later than scheduled.

    I was pretty worn out. If there had been no other choice, I could have rested at Rollyview then finished the last 14 km to Leduc.  But I had nothing to prove, not even to myself, so I called my wife to come and pick us up.  Although Susan said she was good to carry on, I think she was glad enough of the lift.   We all went out for supper at McDonalds then went our separate ways.

    Evaluating the Tour Route

    If not for the wind and our late starts, the route would have been fine.  But clearly, tour planning has to take such things into consideration.  Start times need to be made clear, and adhered to insofar as possible, but perhaps alternate rest stops need to be in place for adverse conditions, and end times need to be flexible rather than tight deadlines.

     

     

  • Thunder Lake Cycle Tour with EBTC

    Posted on August 8th, 2017 admin No comments

    On August 5-6 I went on the Thunder Lake trip with Edmonton Bicycle & Touring Club.  Earlier this year, Ed Weymouth had come out to the Millet Circuit Cycle & Sports bike Meetup some time ago to talk about touring, and he met us at the start and finish in Onoway.

    Concerns About the EBTC

    Before the trip, I had several concerns

    • I'd heard that the group rode very quickly, and I was concerned about keeping up
    • Perhaps they were all younger riders and I'd feel out of place
    • It had been suggested to me that it was a tight clique of riders who'd didn't warm to strangers

    I'll address those concerns as I describe the trip.

    Day 1:  Cycling From Onoway to Thunder Lake

    We assembled in Onoway at 09:00, a group of people around my age, so I fit in well that way.  Introductions and a bit of chat took care of another concern; people in the group obviously knew each other well, but they were friendly and  I felt welcome.  After packing gear onto the SAG van, we left around 09:30 and rode off.   The day was cool, and we rode through some spooky, damp fog patches.  We stopped about 25 km to the Esso station at Hwy 43 for ice cream.  This was actually the wrong place -- we were supposed to have taken our break a km or so back at a Domo station.

    Through the fog.

    Through the fog.  Photo by Greg

    The next leg took us at a crisp pace.  I pumped hard to keep up with another rider, who told me we were travelling at 24 km/h.  This is a bit faster than I'm used to, my first concern, but with effort I was able to keep up.  The only result was that I worked a bit harder than usual, and was a little more tired.

    Tom working hard but being passed by Barbara and John

    Tom working hard but being passed by Barbara and John

    We zoomed into Cherhill,where we stopped for lunch at the local ball diamond.   Lunch was do-it-yourself sandwiches: fresh crusty rolls, tomatoes, lettuce, three kinds of sliced cheese, three kinds of sliced meat (ham, chicken, beef), dill pickles, apple juice, cookies, bananas, oranges....   It was at this point that I realized the truth of something one of the group had said, "We are an eating group with a mild cycling disorder".

    Lunch at Cherhill -- making sandwiches and spraying for mosquitoes.

    Lunch at Cherhill, making sandwiches and spraying for mosquitoes.

    A short leg, 18 km, took us north on Twp Rd 764 to a rest stop at Meadowview Community School.  I was getting pretty tired, some 68 km into the trip, so the break was welcome.  We finished off some fruit and granola bars and cookies left over from lunch before setting off on the final 20 km section.  We rolled into the provincial park at 15:37.   I had really wanted to take a photo of some cyclists in front of the park sign, but I couldn't catch up to them in time.  Guess I could have waited for a couple to catch up, but by this time I really wanted to get off my bike and set up camp!

    20170805_152247

    We grabbed another ice cream break at the camp store, where we sheltered under cover during a brief rain.  Then we set off up a winding gravel road to the overflow area, another couple of kilometers away.   Yay, 89 km over and done.  I think this was my longest ride to date.

    Camping at Thunder Lake Provincial Park

    There were signs of recent heavy rains -- a soggy parking lot and wet grass.   We set up our tents around the perimeter of the area and settled in.  The overflow area was beside a creek draining the lake, with a nice bridge (though the trail on the other side was overgrown) over a waterfall.

    Irene poses by the waterfall.  Photo by Greg

    Irene poses by the waterfall. Photo by Greg

    The lake was beautiful in the evening.  This shot was taken from just behind my tent.

    Thunder Lake that evening.  Photo by Greg.

    Thunder Lake that evening. Photo by Greg.

    I was beat, so after I got set up I took a nap.  Didn't really sleep, just dozed, and woke up when I heard Debbie, the trip organizer, call for supper.

    My tent in the misty morning

    My little orange tent in the misty morning

    Ah, supper.  Ribs barbequed over the open fire, cole slaw, corn-on-the-cob, boiled baby spuds, baked beans, with red wine courtesy of John and Barbara; for dessert, meringues with Greek yogurt and fresh blueberries and raspberries.

    The group at supper, checkered tablecloths and all.

    The group at supper, checkered tablecloths and all.

    After cleanup, the group sat around the campfire with a desultory discussion about immigration; although it was interesting, I think most people were tired enough not to get into it.  Certainly I was beat.  I wanted to go to bed at 21:30 but the group persuaded me to stay up a bit longer.  Nonetheless, at 21:50 I excused myself and hit the tent.  The rest followed shortly.

    Irene, who claimed to be the oldest rider in the group, showing off her tattoo.

    Irene, who claimed to be the oldest rider in the group, showing off her tattoo.

    Day 2:  Return via Barrhead

    We were up around 7:30 for "First breakfast" of coffee, juice, fruit, croissants with jam.   People packed up with great efficiency -- they have obviously done this many times -- and to my surprise I was one of the last to load up.

    Getting packed to leave Sunday morning

    Getting packed to leave Sunday morning

    The day's first leg was a nice stretch into Barrhead, where we stopped at the A&W for "Second breakfast".  Hadn't thought I'd need anything, but croissants don't stay with you, so  I had a pancake, bacon, hashbrowns, coffee.  As always when I've been pedalling, whatever I eat tastes delicious.

    Lunch at Meadowview School on Day 2

    Lunch at Rich Valley Agriplex on Day 2

    Oooh, a long stretch of 32 km along Hwy 333 to Rich Valley, where we enjoyed watermelon and whatever was leftover.  A few cookies, a piece of orange, a Clif bar that I had in my bag.  Filled my water bottle with Biosteel then left it behind.... good thing I had a second full bottle.

    This is a good time to mention bikes.   I was happy that the gearing on my new bike made the hillsf a lot easier, but not happy with the pedals, seat, or bars.  More work needed on fitting.  Most of the bikes people rode were top-end, a lot of Specialized, a couple of Italian bikes, a couple of carbon frames; the members have been riding for 20 or 30 years or more and seem to be continually upgrading equipment.  Interesting and educational for me.

    Another 12 km took us to the junction with Hwy 43, where I took another brief rest with two other cyclists, then one final 12 km push (which wasn't bad) back to Onoway, where I recovered my water bottle and said goodbye to everyone.

    The traditional end-of-ride group shot in front of the van.

    The traditional end-of-ride group shot in front of the van.

    Was it a bit of a challenge?  Yes, because the ride was a bit faster than I'd have done on my own.  Was it fun?  Overall, it was an enjoyable ride.  Was i glad i went, definitely.  Would I go again?   For sure.

  • Ready for the Rain

    Posted on August 1st, 2017 admin No comments

     

    After getting soaked on my four-day tour,   I acquired some new gear.

    • New (used) bike (actually, I got the bike the day before I left on the tour).
    • New (used) rear panniers (ditto).
    • New front panniers with rain covers.
    • New rain pants.
    • New green waterproof cover for tent.
    In this photo, I haven't attached the front handlebar bag.

    In this photo, I haven't attached the front handlebar bag.

    New Gear Needs to be Tested

    It's my opinion that new gear should be tested before use.   It always amazes me to find someone in a campground struggling to put up a new tent for the first time, often under stressful circumstances such as rain, high wind, or interference from helpful but hyperactive kids.  "Did you try it out at home?"  Nope.

    I just can't understand that.   When I was selecting a tent for bike touring, I tested each choice a few times before making a selection to take on tour.  We also have an older large 8-man dome tent that we might use for an upcoming truck camping trip; I set that up in the back yard to refresh my memory on setup, ensure that all the parts were still there, and to make sure it hadn't suffered from years of storage (found one large hole that needs patched).    Confession:  my "solar" phone charger arrived shortly before my tour, so I was forced to take it with me untested.  And it bit me in the end: the solar charging didn't work and my phone died.  Caveat emptor.

    World Tour 20L Pannier Indigo/Cobalt

    My front panniers are new MEC 12L World Tour that were $20 off for a pair. Yes, the photo shows 20L, but otherwise they're identical.

    Anyway.  Today I stuffed some random gear into the panniers, put the rain covers on the front, then rode for 30 minutes (about 10 km) in the rain to see if everything -- including me -- would stay dry. For the most part, it did.

    The Panniers Perform

    I had some concerns about the front panniers.  The bottom hooks didn't engage the rack, which meant that the bags could swing out.  It was also the first time I had ridden with full front panniers, and I've read that they could affect steering and maneuvering.   Turned out neither was an issue.  The panniers stayed where they were, and I rode some zig-zags, tight circles, and figure-eights, with no problems at all.

    The front pannier covers worked beautifully.  They fit well and shed the rain.   Although some water splashed up on the back of each pannier when I went through puddles, the plastic backing kept the water out.  I suspect that after a day of rain, the bottoms of these panniers would be wet and the contents damp.

    I got the rear panniers with the bike and front racks.  The folks I bought them from  had used them for front panniers on a trip to South America.  However, they seem to be in good condition and the waterproof lining has not worn through anywhere that I could see.

    One of the rear panniers let in a little water, but it may have been that I didn't have it fastened down properly.  They're an older MEC model, no longer available -- waterproof bags with an inner drawstring closure, compression straps, a few extra inner and outer pockets.

    The MEC 20L panniers on the back.

    The MEC 20L panniers on the back.

    The drawstring closure sack at the top is not waterproof, and I think I had one overstuffed (with my old mummy bag) and not compressed enough.  A part of that sleeping bag got wet.

    Keeping Myself Dry

    As for the cyclist -- my Gore-Tex rain jacket did a good enough job, and the new rain pants kept my bottom half dry.  I used poor-man booties, which consist of a plastic garbage sack slipped over each foot before putting on my runners.  This is an old trick: the running shoes get wet, but the feet stay dry and warm.  After my half-hour shower, I was dry.  Sort of.  Both my jacket and my rain pants are supposedly "breathable", but neither has vents.  After 30 minutes at a moderate pace,  sweat had started to accumulate, and I was riding with the jacket and my under-layer unzipped.  By the end of an hour in the rain, I might have been pretty damp in my "dry" clothes.

    Ready for my Next Bike Tour

    So, several hundred dollars later, I've got gear that I think will work well for the light touring I plan to do.  Apparently, with four panniers and the front bag, I have enough storage to tour for months (after all, I did four days on two smaller rear panniers).

  • At the Side of the Road

    Posted on July 25th, 2017 admin No comments

    As I was biking along over the weekend, I was surprised at what I noticed along the side of the road.  Many interesting and unexpected things.

    1. Tools - I found a complete flex head ratchet set, retail $129; a 10" adustable wrench, maybe $10; and a combination ratchet, MSRP $32.  Yes, over $170 in tools and except for the 10" wrench, things I didn't have.  I though the value was worth the weight, and carried them home.  Hey, it was only a kilogram and a half of steel in the bottom of a pannier.

      http://s7d5.scene7.com/is/image/CanadianTire/0588586_1?defaultImage=image_na_EN&wid=160&hei=160&op_sharpen=1

      A flex-head ratchet combo set, sort of like what I found.

    2. Energy drink cans - Do energy drink drinkers drink more cans than beer drinkers?  Or do they just throw out their cans more?  Is the number of cans a sign of the success of the energy drink industry?
    3. Bic lighters - If your Bic won't flick, toss it.  Image result for bic lighter
    4. Coyote scat - I guess it's more pleasant to poop if there isn't gra$$ up your a$$.
    5. Little black beetles - Saw a couple of these every kilometer. About 1 cm long, all seemed the same species, all seemed to be suicidal, crawling from the ditch into the traffic lanes.  Squish.
    6. An intact and undamaged plastic flip-lid kitchen trash can.  Too big to take home.   Don't need it anyway.

      Image result for junk in ditch

      Generic junk tossed on the side of the road. I didn't see this much on my trip.  I'm glad.

    7. Gloves.  More gloves.  Do people throw them away?  Do they fly out of pickup boxes?
    8. Clothing - Jackets, pants, t-shirts, underwear, socks, shoes.  Not a single bra. I'll add here towels, facecloths, j-cloths, chamois, and a set of curtains.  How do you lose a set of curtains along the highway?

    Since I was mostly watching the scenery and greenery, I probably missed some stuff.

  • Sylvan Lake Bike Tour

    Posted on July 25th, 2017 admin No comments

    My interest piqued by an overnight bike tour to a friend’s acreage with the Circuit Cycle & Sport Meetup, I recently did a 250+ km solo bike tour:  Leduc > Wizard Lake > Falun > Crestomere > Sylvan Lake > Red Deer > Lacombe > Blackfalds > Ponoka > Wetaskiwin > Home.  The idea was just to try it, to see if I could do it, to test my equipment, to learn.

    Tried it, did it, learned a lot.

    Day 1:  Leduc to Falun

    First day, 61 km to a friend's farm south of Falun.  It was a lovely day, and although it was hazy due to  smoke from BC forest fires, I had no problem.  Setting out at 08:30, I took my time, enjoyed the scenery.  Stopped for lunch at beautiful Jubilee Park on Wizard Lake south of Calmar, and rode around the campground and nature trail.  All the time I've lived in this area, and it's the first time I'd visited!

    Lunch at Jubilee Park, Wizard Lake, Alberta

    Lunch at Jubilee Park, Wizard Lake, Alberta

    Wind blew the flame from my little Trangia spirit stove around and wasted fuel; I had to move to a more sheltered spot to cook my noodles with fresh snow peas.  Learned:  I need a wind screen for the stove!

    The roar of traffic passing me was a bother, and one motorbike that ripped by actually hurt my ears.  I'm already losing hearing in my left ear.   Learned:  I stuck an earplug in that side.  It helped, and I used it on every highway after that.

    Taking a break in the atrium at Pigeon Lake Regional High, west of Falun

    Taking a break in the atrium at Pigeon Lake Regional High, west of Falun

    Rain in the forecast for late afternoon, but I made it to the farm in good time, about 16:30, long before the threatened rain.  During a wonderful evening, my hostess fed me supper and home-brewed kombucha (strange stuff, but tasty) and excellent conversation, let me play with her grandchildren and gave me a bed for the night.  Just as well, given the torrential downpour -- but I wondered how I'd have fared in the little tent.

    Day 2:  Falun to Sylvan Lake

    I was a bit excited and didn't sleep all that well.  Woke up early and since my hostess had gone to work at 5:00 and the rest of the household was still asleep, I quietly slipped out and headed off just after 07:00.  Today would be a long haul, 85 km with lots of elevation, and I was glad of the early start.

    Rather than backtrack north and east to the highway, I had decided to go 4 miles south on Rge Rd 275, then cut west to Sec Hwy 292, which I thought was paved.  It wasn't.  So I slogged through 9 km or more of freshly maintained, rain-soaked gravel.  It was tough going, mostly uphill; this stretch wore me down and slowed me down, a bad way to start the morning.  I was glad to reach pavement, to stop for a breakfast of coffee and a bagel with peanut butter.  May not seem like much, but it was delicious and filling after only an energy gel for the first leg.  Sure getting some use out of the Trangia stove.

    And what's after that hill?  Oh, goody, another hill.

    And what's after that hill? Oh, goody, another hill.

    Shortly after I reached the paved portion of the highway, around 09:00, a light rain started, driven by a northwest wind (sort of at my back).  I pulled in at Crestomere store for a break.  The rain showed no sign of stopping, so I decided to add another layer under my raincoat and press on.   I could have continued south on Hwy 292, passing east of Gull lake.  Instead, I chose to go west on Hwy 53, then south on Hwy 771/20, west of Gull lake; it seemed the more direct route.  Perhaps that was a mistake.

    The rain worsened, and the wind strengthened more from the west.  Highway 53 west was hill after hill, so I was driving into the wind, into the rain, and uphill.  A real grind.  I was so glad to turn south again to get the wind and rain at my back.

    By 13:00, I was soaked below the waist, and had started shivering.  Even cranking hard, I wasn't warm. Realizing that I might be in serious trouble soon, I pulled off at a house for sale.  Unoccupied, it had a large covered front veranda where I could get out of the rain.  Even sheltered, I shivered, so I stripped off my wet socks and shorts, unpacked my mattress and sleeping bag, and snuggled in.  I set my stove up in a corner sheltered from the wind, boiled water for freeze-dried rice and chicken, then burrowed deeper into the bag while it rehydrated.  It was only while I was eating this hot meal that I started to warm up again. Learned:  If I'm going to ride in the rain, I need rain pants!

    By 14:00, the rain had slacked off, so I put on dry socks and wet shorts, packed up, and got back on the road.   Eventually, things dried out as I rode.  I made it to my destination, another person's house in Sylvan Lake, around 18:30.  Had I waited in Crestomere for the rain to stop, I'd have been hours later.  Even so, it took me over 11 hours to travel some 85 km.

    I set up camp in the back yard, put my panniers in the tent, changed clothes, and rode on  a marvelously light bike to A&W for a delicious burger, onion rings, and two big mugs of root beer!  Let's hear it for greasy fast food!  Back to the house where I threw all my wet and muddy gear into the washer, and went to bed at 21:30.

    Day 3:  Sylvan Lake to Ponoka

    Slept until 08:30 the next morning.  Eleven hours.  Guess I was tired or something. But nothing hurt.  Moved my tent into the sun to dry (heavy dew). Threw the wet stuff into the drier.  Helped myself to cereal, washed dishes, folded clothes, packed up.  By the time the tent was dry and I was ready to go, it was 11:00.  I rode around Sylvan Lake for a while, checked out the beach, then set out east on Hwy  11A to Red Deer.

    This day was a gorgeous contrast to yesterday.  Blue sky, sunny, light wind from the northwest to speed me along.  Kind of wished I'd decided to stay on the beach!   But like the day, this leg was a wonderful contrast to yesterday.  Good road, wide shoulders, light traffic, gentle hills and mostly downhill.  Almost as if I'd planned it that way.  :)

    Almost before I knew it I was at Red Deer, where I  joined the Trans Canada Trail north.  This was a familiar route, and it was surprising how quickly I found myself in Blackfalds.  Lunch by the Abbey Centre was a little tin of ravioli and some beef jerky from a nearby convenience store.  Sure, it's junky, but it tasted good.

    Day 3 en route to Red Deer.

    Day 3 en route to Red Deer.

    Following the TCT took me through Lacombe, then on the Bluebird Trail east along Milton Road and north on gravel past the J. J. Collett Nature Centre.  I would have stopped and explored the trails, but I was unsure of the timing of this leg, and unhappy to be on gravel again, so I continued on into Morningside then north on 2A (leaving the Bluebird).

    The last stretch into Ponoka was not bad.  This northern leg was also largely downhill on a good road.  In Ponoka my plan was to stay at the Frank Mickey RV Park and Campground.  This was hard to find -- no signs that I saw -- and I had to talk to a few people (most of them had never heard of it) and wander around before I found it.  And rode up to a sign that said "NO TENTS".  The lady in the office was quite firm.  Tenters are messy, they party, they wreck stuff.  Nearest campground, she told me, was Wolf Lake, 8 km back towards Morningside.  Fooey on adding 16 km to my trip.  I rode on.

    At Range Road 440, I found a riparian conservation project bordering the Battle River, with a wonderful camping spot right by the river and although I had to travel further to camp there, I was not sorry that Frank Mickey campground had cast me out.  I set up camp around 19:30, waded in the river, and explored the road across the river.  Went to bed around 21:30, fell asleep watching the sunset through the open doors of the tent, and slept until 08:30.

    My camp by the Battle River

    My camp by the Battle River.  Off the road in case a 4 x 4 roars by in the night.

    The Battle River just meters from my camp

    The Battle River just meters from my camp

    I had covered 81.5 km from Sylvan Lake, a leg almost as long as yesterday, but far more pleasant.

    Day 4: Ponoka to Wetaskiwin

    Woke to a bright day and slugs all over the tent.  Not inside, fortunately.  Shook them all off and moved the tent to a sunny spot to dry out.   Was almost out of water so boiled some river water for coffee (hmm, what consequences to that?) .  Breakfast was pita bread and canned flakes of ham.  No matter what I eat on this trip, it tastes delicious.

    Another easy downhill to Wetaskiwin.  Stopped at McD's for coffee and to charge my phone.  Had bought a solar-powered charger but it didn't work despite all day yesterday in the sun.  A miscommunication with my wife had me thinking she'd pick me up to go berry-picking with some friends after she got out of church.  So I rode to By-the-Lake Park, another pleasant spot, to finish off the ham flakes with more pita for lunch.

    I could easily have gone the remaining 35 km to Leduc.  However, when my ride arrived, I learned that the choice had been for her to go pick berries or come pick me up.  We didn't go picking berries. Instead, we went home.  Where I had the runs.  Thank you, Battle River.  Learned:  even if you think you'll always be near a store, bring water purification tabs.

    So Was it Worth It?

    This was the question my wife asked.  The answer is an unqualified yes.  I learned a lot about touring and about myself.  Day two was tough, but I survived, and adversity gives you a measure of your strength.  After three and a half days and over 250 km, I wasn't particularly sore or stiff.

    Yes, overall, I enjoyed it.  I'll improve my equipment, and I'll be ready to go again.  And I lost three pounds.

    Related Reading

     

     

Supporting your fulltime RV adventures and aspirations